Maria de Lourdes Sekeff – a new essay on Music, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis

Is there unconscious in music?

This is the question Professor Maria de Lourdes Sekeff poses herself in her magnificent essay Filosofia, Psicanálise, Música: Tema e Variações (Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Music: Theme and Variations) included in the recently published book Quatro Ensaios sobre Música e Filosofia (Four Essays on Music and Philosophy), organized by Rubens Russomano Ricciardi and Edson Zampronha (Music Department of USP and Coruja Press, 2013).

This book is dedicated to the memory of Professor Maria de Lourdes Sekeff (1934-2008), including this original and unpublished essay. Professor Sekeff touches very interesting and even disturbing issues, which rarely receive a so fine approach.

Professor Sekeff starts explaining some aspects of Sigmund Freud thinking, and she explains how far his thinking takes us apart from the philosophy of René Descartes. For instance, she shows that truth is not a product of our thinking, but a product of our unconscious and our desires. And: for psychoanalysis the subject is the unconscious subject, a subject that is constructed (it is not born; it does not develop).(See here another text on this subject by Prof. Sekeff) 

Left: Professor Maria de Lourdes Sekeff  /  Right: Cover of the book including her essay. 

Afterwards, she shows that there is unconscious in music, and it can be observed in what she calls three dimensions:

  1. The first dimension is related with latent relations and senses that a work exposes to a listener, which are not readable in the surface of music.
  2. The second dimension is related with traces, marks that a composer leaves in the construction of his/her work. The composer’s unconscious is inserted in his/her selections, choices, structures and so on. In a nutshell, the composer’s unconscious is revealed by the way a composer says what s/he says. (Perhaps the Genetic Criticism can give a hand in this dimension.) 
  3.  The third dimension is related with echoes and resonances a work leaves in the listener. Professor Sekeff mentions the excellent book of R. Mezan (Interfaces da Psicanálise. São Paulo: Cia. Das Letras, 2002). She remembers that a musical work is complete only when the listener is included in the process, and that the unconscious is constructed in the relation between a work and a listener. Besides, that a psychoanalytic view is able to reveal some effects a work produces on a listener, and how some latent meanings can emerge during a listening, producing some reactions.

Professor Sekeff concludes explaining some ideas about signification and meaning in music and some other very interesting ideas that gives us an original perspective about music and its relation with a listener.

The themes approached in her essay are both complex and deep, and the comments I include here are just a short selection of ideas taken from her incredible set of original approaches to music.

The complete bibliographical reference to this book is:

RICCIARDI, Rubens Russomano and ZAMPRONHA, Edson (Ed.). Quatro Ensaios sobre Música e Filosofia. Ribeirão Preto: Coruja Press, 2013. (In Portuguese).

It includes the following essays by:
- Maria de Lourdes Sekeff
- Rubens Russomano Ricciardi
- Alexandre da Silva Costa
- Edson Zampronha


  1. How can I get my copy of this book?

    1. I was told It is going to be sent to Universities and libraries. I will ask them if there is another way to purchase this book.